North Watford History Group

Dr. Tibbles (William Tibbles)

Vi-Cocoa railway advert


Dr. Tibbles' Vi-Cocoa Company came to North Watford in 1899, and by 1903 was employing about 550 people. [1] Dr. Tibbles himself neither owned nor managed the company and has been described as an enigma. [2] So who was he?

Dr. Tibbles' role in Vi-Cocoa is that he invented it and promoted its health-enhancing properties. One advert claimed that "it restores bodily vigour in whatever way jadedness or fatigue is brought about, and at the same time raises drooping spirits, and thus promotes the happiness of the people generally." [3] Other adverts featured a variety of satisfied customers, from postmen to solicitors, testifying to its vitalizing effects. Dr Tibbles also invented and promoted other products, such as Dr. Tibbles' Coca tablets, Dr. Tibbles' Brain Feeder and Dr. Tibbles' Child’s Restorer. [4] But his products were not without controversy. It has been said that some "contained a fair amount of cocaine." [5] Dr. Tibbles' medical credentials were also called into question. [6]

It certainly seems that Dr. Tibbles was not actually a qualified medical practitioner. He was born William Tibbles c.1834 in Leicestershire, son of Thomas Tibbles, a stocking maker. The 1851 census shows William, aged 17, as a framework knitter and pauper, resident in Leicester workhouse. In 1861, William stated his occupation as framework knitter and medical practitioner, but there is no evidence that he had undergone medical training. This is reinforced by the fact that in the 1871 census, William is described as an "eclectic medical practitioner." In 1881, he is recorded as an eclectic medical teacher and a manufacturer of unfermented wine, and, in 1891, as a chemist and druggist. However, in 1901, William describes himself as a retired doctor. [7]


Vi-Cocoa railway advert

Railway themed advertisement for Vi-Cocoa. This was one of a series featuring workers of different kinds.


Research: Jill Waterson; North Watford History Group.
Author: Jill Waterson; North Watford History Group.
Photograph: with kind permission of the London & North Western Railway Society.


  1. Nunn, J.B.; The Book of Watford, 2nd edition, 2003; page 112
  2. Nunn, J.B.; The Book of Watford, 2nd edition, 2003; page 98
  3. The Times; 10 Dec, 1897; page 14
  4. The Times; 10 Dec, 1897; page 15
  5. Nunn, J.B.; The Book of Watford, 2nd edition, 2003; page 98
  6. The Times; 25 May 1904; page 11
  7. 1841–1901 censuses

[Added by Glen: 9:26pm 3 Oct 2008]
[Updated by Glen: 00:17am 22 Oct 2008]
[Updated by Glen: 9:58pm 5 Jan 2009]
[Updated by Glen: 9:58am 14 Feb 2009]

This page was last updated on 18 May 2009.